Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lucy Comes to Work

First it was the late alarm, then the falling back asleep after the late alarm. Then the dog running away. Then the kid forgetting to feed said dog. Then the car stuck in the garage. Then more snow. Unshoveled snow. Then the slip, slide off the porch. Then the lack of food in the fridge, my kid's other boot that "magically" went missing. Then no gloves on said kid. Then work. Ugh, work.

Alas, we (finally) drive away from our home which at that moment I felt like I might burn; just in time to meet my brother, who appeared from dust to take my child and shovel my snow. All smiley and nice.

Now this? Visitors at my office...my best-est friend in the world and her daughter, visitors? AND they even show up bearing gifts, and as if their mere presence is not enough, they stay awhile, play with my toys.

She's cute, Lucy with all my coffee stickers covering her face, don't you think?
I hope she comes back soon. It appears my people do not allow crappy crabby day before Christmas Eve days.

'Tis the season; I acquiesce.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Four Legged House Guests...and Those People They Come With

We love company, especially during these cold winter months where our snot freezes in our noses when we leave the house.

I love catching up with my people, the concept of adult conversation after 9 p.m., the chaos, cooking, cleaning up, the music, laughing, and allowing my kid to see a glimpse of my people in action.

One of the best parts of living back in the hometown is playing host to lots of friends as they pass through their college town on their way home for the holidays, or as they look for some respite from family during a visit. Some bring more suitcases than you can count. Some bring freshly caught crabs. Some bring wine. Some bring video games. Some bring new girlfriends or wives. They have little in common except one thing: none stay quite long enough, and lately lots of them have dogs.

Here are a few:

Bubba and Charlie: little do they know their loving slumber will soon be interrupted by a third lab, and soon after that, a baby. A human baby. :)
Pinot: doesn't sit still for long, and LOOOOOVES the underneath portion of cars, in particular in -20 degree temperatures.
Allie: only dog I ever had named after me. At least as far as I know of. She also digs Sunday Night football, barks LOUD for the Titans and Cyclones, and is annoyed by 5 a.m. Wii boxing.

Poor Marley: actually lives with us all the time, hates everyone but me/T, and somehow tolerates all these four legged guests without eating any of them, despite her momma and brother dressing her like this for no reason.
P.S. We do NOT under any circumstances do cats.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Weddings, Idiots, and Early Release

Ah, what a difference 24 hours makes! First yesterday, at about half past four there were the nuptials of two of my very best peeps. I will further expend details after they notify people who are related and such. But congrats, I love you both and look forward to sharing some more happy years and laughs with you!

Second, I received a text from my friend Donna this a.m. as she was on her way to work (in Seattle). She was stuck on the freeway, and was lamenting at the idiots in Seattle that cannot drive. Apprently they had a little snow, and many of them would make their way down the ramp onto the freeway, freak, and subsequently...TURN AROUND and drive backwards on the freeway.

A few minutes later, she texted again to report people leaving their cars and WALKING down the 520. There is a reason those Northwesterner's shut all things down when it snows and do not leave their houses. And this is precisely it.

I also received a couple thoughtful texts from another Northwest person who also happens to be and Iowa-bred teacher. The first, yesterday afternoon, lamenting at the 1 p.m. early release because of a little snow. Oh and the subsequent cancellation of school the following day to boot.

THEN, a follow up text from the local tequila bar. Things were not all that bad at that point I suspect. And then again this a.m. bragging up the 18...yes, 18 inches of powder Baker had received last night/this a.m. He was packing to drive up the mountain. Am I jealous? Insanely.

But we DO get early release, I just learned from the trusty Ames Community Schools Alert Texting System. Thank the maker. Short work day, short school day and it is sunny and lovely, no ice as predicted (yet). I hope the weather makers will once again be dead wrong and I can just enjoy the freedom. I love it when that happens. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spinning My Wheels....

My Little A.D.D. Problem

I like to say that I have self-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. I may actually have it for all I know, but I have always been too distracted to go to some omniscient type and get a diagnosis.

Nonetheless, I fancy myself a "turn lemons into lemonade" type, so I somewhat enjoy my ability to adapt and juggle a bazillion things simultaneously. That said, there are some times it gets to be a bit much. I don't know if it is impending holidays, or the insane amounts of corn syrup and sugar that I am stuffing into my mouth with all the treats (read: BRIBES) that vendors keep dropping off in my office, but I am finding it more difficult than ever to focus.

There are all of a sudden WAY too many bright shiny electronic type things getting in the way. So, to clear my head...a totally random and partial listing of just a COUPLE of those bright shiny things:

1. The BestSeller and Recommended Reading lists on Powells.com:

I have been buying the bulk of my reading supplies from here for years, as it is the world's largest indy bookstore. I imagine one of the rooms of my own personal heaven looking a bit like this bookstore itself; aisle upon aisle of beautiful prose. Only I would never have to leave, I'd just have to pick a new book from time to time and curl up in a different chair.

2. The Nutrition and Exercise tracker on SparkPeople:

I became familiar with this (FREE) site several years ago when my former employer launched it as part of a wellness program for our team. I still use it fairly religiously as a log for all of my exercising and when I am eating healthfully, for my food. The databases are pretty amazing, and I like that it is not an all or none approach. You don't actually have to take advantage of ALL the whistles and bells to make it work for you. I track my protein to carb to fat ratio, a couple exercise goals and water consumption. I leave all the other whistles and bells behind, but a person could really create for themselves a customized community in order to accomplish weight/nutrition/exercise goals.

3. Facebook status updates:

Okay, admit me to Betty Ford now and just spare us all the agony of another day of my rambling about what I learned or saw on FaceCrack.

I am totally and completely addicted, not necessarily to Facebook, but to Facebook status updates. I talked frequently around election time about how fascinating it would be to engage in a research study (can you tell I work at a university?) on what was being said in Facebook status updates as it pertained to the election, and later the results.

I have watched people break up on status updates, get back together, and later, begin fighting. I have witnessed storms as they have snaked their way from my western based friends' homes to my own, and onward to my eastern-based friends. Fascinating stuff. Or not. Nonethelss, I am an addict and I should add, only a contributor with my own updates with infrequent regularity.

As you might well imagine, all hell pretty well broke loose when I figured out how to access these updates from my phone. I think I might have actually blushed in embarrasment last night when my phone practically yelled, "None of your friends have updates at this time!"

4. Closely but not so closely related to my status update addiction is Twitter:

I mean, seriously, how many more of these toys are out there? Too many more and I will just never work. At least this is what I said when I first heard of it shortly after its launch and promptly went on strike against even logging on to check it out.

For you newbies, essentially all Twitter is people writing one line about what they are doing. Um, a status update. Whatever. Another one? I'll take Facebook any day, I thought.

But then I read a story on, get this...Facebook, about someone hosting a party for all her "Twitter Friends." The next day she posted pictures of all these folks, arms around one another, beers in tow. "The Twitters Finally Meet" read the headline. You've got to be shitting me, I thought. What kind of geeks, I thought...

Well hells bells, they all looked NORMAL. Not a one in a Star Trek t-shirt. And then there was a Twitter ROMANCE I read about within that post.

So of course, I immediately log on and check Twitter out. Turns out Twitter has Lance Armstrong "twittering." I have never been a big Lance fan, but a quick run through his Twitters and I am astonished at how often he updates his um, "twitter." And I was also astonished at how much information I could glean from this guy on any given day about the general course of his life; his workouts, his foundation, his ex wife, his kids, friends, interviews, drug tests.

He actually updates the thing every few hours. From here, I could see just how insane the guy's schedule is on any given day, how many hours he's riding, with whom, and I think most interestingly, within seconds, EVERY time the drug lords come knocking, Lance Twitters. We are at 10 pees and counting, for those of you who are interested.

I have been simultaneously intrigued at the issues Lance seems to care about. I've checked out new bands, art exhibitions, articles, photographers, friends, and have also watched as he's single handedly gotten other cyclists Twittering.
You can find him (and links to all the things Lance loves) at: www.twitter.com/lancearmstrong

5. Photography sites:

I have a decent handful of friends who are insanely talented photographers. And through their blogs/websites I have learned of other blogs and have just been blown over first and foremost by the talented people I call my people, and secondly, I have been blown over by their work.

So I will dedicate a subsequent post to a collection of their sites, as I think it will be interesting to see them all together in one place, so I can brag them all up. In the meantime, however, I MUST highlight one site (not a friend) that I have watched religiously for months. Hamilton 365. This is such a simple idea, and I think a spectacular way to market a photography biz. It also helps that this guy is insanely talented. He recently moved to this town, Hamilton, and to help grow his business and also to familiarize himself with his town, he began posting one photograph a day of the faces he encountered around the community. Given that I am a literary sort, I also find it compelling that his one line of copy per photograph packs such a powerful punch.

It reminds me a bitof some of the Story Corp Project, or of the NPR This I Believe series. Only visual. And simple. And astoundingly beautiful.
6. One more and I quit...the oh so very EVIL to my pocketbook Campmor:
I am not much for dressing up. I mean, don't get me wrong, I drool over the Anthropologie site just as much as the next woman, but you won't find me shelling out $200 for a shirt that I will likely ruin when I accidentally wash it with my towels any time soon.
I will, however, drop insane amounts of money on a furry fleece, or a tent, or something else to enhance my level of comfort while working out, lounging, or just trying to avoid freezing my ass off. Campmor is it as far as bargain shopping for outdoorsy type clothes goes. It is WAY better than REI, way better than Title Nine, or Lucy (a couple other girly outdoorsy vices). And when I say way better, I do not mean prettier, as it is not pretty, it is ALL function. And it is CHEAP.
I would also argue that Campmor boasts the smartest marketing engine I've seen. That said, the Campmor website is a lot like it's black and white newprint catalog. No frills, but incredibly easy to use and SMART. The search function is amazing.

But be warned. You run a search for something as specific as Women's Down Jacket and you will receive about 50 emails within the next month telling you 1,000 reasons why you cannot live without the North Face, or Patagonia, or Mountain Hardware down coat that is ON SALE, tomorrow only!

This site will be the end of me. I love it. I also buy everyone in my family their Christmas presents on here every year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Something Lovely + Something To Think About

From the Power of Now:

"The reason why some people love to engage in dangerous activities, such as mountain climbing, car racing, and so on, although they may not be aware of it, is that it forces them into the Now- that intensely alive state that is free of time, free of problems, free of thinking, free of the burden of the personality. Slipping away from the present moment even for a second may mean death. Unfortunately, they come to depend on a particular activity to be in that state. But you don't need to climb the north face of the Eiger. You can enter that state now."

***Photographs are from a beautiful Salem, Oregon vineyard and are photographed my good friend Mike.

I have cool and talented friends. You should be insanely jealous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Is A Good Thing I Worked Three Jobs And Didn't Go On Welfare....

....because our government needed to save my money so they could give it to the auto industry. And after the auto industry they need my money to give to the banking industry, the insurance industry, and the mortgage industry.

And after the execs from those industries all fill their greedy palms with coins, for good measure maybe we can just continue the trend and and dip into that infinite stash o' cash and bail out the airline industry. And then maybe next we can reform the zoos of America because I heard the monkeys are really pissed off about their current living conditions. They actually want memory foam beds and food from local sources and we can just put our tax money to work for them too.

And then, maybe when that is all said and done we can pay off a few more mortgages, you know, those folks who have fallen behind since we started paying off the OTHER mortgages that have fallen behind and then finally, we can all just return to working for a living. Because the handouts, they cannot last forever...and shit, someone has to work!

This is only right it seems, as I have worked two and sometimes three jobs to avoid putting myself on welfare, government assistance and therefore qualification for any of such programs and I have twice, sold property to avoid being swept up by some morgtage crisis throughout the past fifteen years. I must be blessed with something these folks are not. Irish luck perhaps? Stellar financial prowness? I should just keep working for the man, right? Not roll over and give up? Refrain from feeling entitled to handouts because I am, cough, cough...better than that?

Given the circumstances I am having a difficult time NOT chalking myself up to some kind of financially savvy rocket scientist if these people truly need my money moreso than me. In fact, I fall into what is quite likely the most unlikely of statistical categories to NOT be an active part in creating this mess in the first place: single mother, employed, foreign car driving, graduate student, home owner, etc. And I am not in line nor do I stand to directly benefit from ANY handout, far as I can tell. Not bad considering I cannot balance my checkbook, if I do say so myself!

So go ahead, take my money, and give it to these folks...they surely DESERVE it and are ENTITLED to it more than me. And I'll just keep on working for the man. Whoever that fat assed, lazy, hand out seeking bastard is.

Yes, I am bitter.

No, I do not want to give my hard earned money to a bunch of people who make shitty cars.

No I do not intend to buy one of your shitty American cars because those cars break and they are gas guzzlers and they generally just suck, and had the American auto industry realized this and actually intended to compete globally like the free market we claim to have invented versus rubbing their collective bellies in wonderment as they built yet another gas guzzler, we would not be sitting smack in the middle of this shitty mess to begin with.

But I digress.

I have received these separate images from multiple people this a.m. and I think that we can all agree on one thing...it is a helluva lot more fun to laugh at this than it is to wrap our collective minds around how far we have truly fallen. So I leave you with this:

And this:
It is a good thing Jesus is having his Birthday Party here again soon, and that the Detroit breathren have their number already staked out as FIRST in line to the "party"...in line, of course, before the Germans, the Japanese, and all the other auto makers.

I hate to break it to you, but Jesus loves you and Jesus loves me, but he loves the American auto industry the MOST.

Monday, December 8, 2008

You Really Ought to Try Orphan Thanksgiving

In a previous post I described my family Thanksgiving...traditionally celebrated with our clan either the weekend before or after the actual Turkey Day, in order to accommodate "the other" side of the family. Well, seeing as how I have no "other" side of the family, I have taken this opportunity in mulitple years to both host my own Friend Thanksgiving...and also to orphan myself out to various friends' Thanksigivings. Sometimes I travel to exotic places too...but that is only when my friends are making the big bucks and fly me places because I am poor and cannot afford exotic vacations without such a windfall.

This year I orphaned myself. Keri graciously adopted me. T was off in Cali puking his guts out, so I was also orphaned AND flying solo for a few days. I arrived in Indy with nothing more than a small backpack of my belongings and two bottles of wine. Keri first loaded me into the car and drove me straight past the winery (damn!) and to one of the loveliest farms I've ever seen. It happens to be her Grandma's century farm just outside of Indianola.

The farm is situated among rolling hills and is pristine and has the original 100 year old house, barn, and a few outbuildings. The last time I was there I was struck not only by the beauty of the place but by the cats...it was like Rome, there were so many cats. Cats falling from the rafters in the barns, cats under the leaves of hostas, cats under the house, cats in the basement, cats...everywhere. And I am not a fan of cats. But this time, all but a few of the cats had moved onward (and I am guessing upward), and I was taken by the shiny new Field of Dreams-esque tennis court and the table decorations. I will get to that.

Once our outdoor century farm tour was complete, safely in the house, I found a feast fit for nearly 30 people. Except there were only 7 of us. Such is eating around these parts. Just a few minutes earlier as we strolled around her mom's newly constructed tennis and basketball and volleyball courts, we lamented at how nice it would be to go outside and shoot baskets after gorging ourselves. Except we never did.

I suspect the sleep apnea (which is another post for another day) we suffer from got the best of our short term memories and we forgot. We did, however, stick around long enough to pack up some leftovers (of course!) and I snapped a picture of these precious little Iowa inspired decorations, which were the centerpiece on her 92 year old (or is it 95??) Grandma's table:

It has been a really long time since I have seen a phallic corn stalk with braids and googley eyes. Needless to say, being the corn fed Iowa gal that I am, I was impressed. I was also impressed with the pipe cleaner turkeys. I mean, who knew that you could shove a few pipe cleaners into a pine cone and create your very own turkey?

Keri's Grandma told me she made all these treasures "years ago" which given her 90-some years, is pretty likely before pipe cleaners were even invented. She called the pipe cleaners something hilariously other than pipe cleaners ...but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was, so I probably just should have left that part out. Again, the apnea.

Those turkeys were active little buggers--they ran right out of this arrangement and situated themselves all around Ben's plate for the duration of our meal, much to her sweet Grandmother's dismay...or maybe it was delight. I couldn't tell, being that I've only met her twice. There is something about 'ole Benny that all the mom's like though...so I am sure the turkeys just gravitated there because they liked him.

After we washed dishes and drank up the last of her mom's wine, we ventured off Ben's family Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in the pie and the wine and the epic battle of Trivial Pursuit to remember to snap any pictures, but if I had, I am not sure it would have been appropriate to photograph our yelling and cheating our way through a four hour Thanksgiving Trivial Pursuit battle.

I bet you are suprised to know that the most world beauty pageant contestants come from Venezula out of ALL South American countries! In the end I am not even sure who won, but there was a lot of hooting and hollering and laughing in between the first and last questions. And there was also some cheating and throwing of pie shaped game pieces and some dancing and laughing and more laughing. Good times.

Then the next morning after we all stuffed ourselves with pancakes and eggs, we threw around footballs and ventured off in our pajamas and clogs to the batting cages to take some cuts. It has been 15 long years since I have hit softballs off a machine and I nearly had a heart attack and died. Afterwords, muscles ached that I am fairly certain had previously not seen use in 15 years, my hands were bleeding ...but holy moly, it was FUN and one helluva rush to hit the dogshit out of a few balls again.

I sure hope I get to be an orphan again soon. I am thankful for each of my three turkey days and for all the people that made them possible.

And I am especially thankful for each of the women who spearheaded the food making for these days, as having done it before myself, I know creating an atmosphere and also a meal of this caliber is a whole shitload of work and it is always, always done in a lickety-split sort of fashion that is somewhat of a letdown after so much preparation/work.

My Gym Sucks. I Want a Fancy Gym.

(photo is from www.equinoxfitness.com). I figured since I loved this place and said all these nice things that they might build one in my town and not get pissed at my thievery.

I have never had any grand complaints about my gym, aside from the fact that it at times, is somewhat dirty and I also have to pay a second gym in order to get my kicking and punching fix. That said, I had the opportunity this weekend to get a full experience at Old Towne Chicago's Equinox Gym. I took both a kickboxing and a spinning class on separate days and also took some time to enjoy the rest of what the facility has to offer. I now feel insanely jealous and am convinced I work out in a ghetto gym.

One More Cranksgiving Reflection

As I sat at the registration table for Cranksgiving 2008, I was introduced to a bevy of folks, most of which whose names I cannot recall. There are two people however, whom I will not soon forget. Their names are Rick and Paige Gerjets. According to my elder teammates, Paige and her dad Rick have been following the PRC website for some time, and her father Rick is a frequent commenter. Yet neither he nor his 13 year old daughter Paige had never met the team, so for this year’s Cranksgiving, Rick braved the elements and drove Paige all the way to Des Moines from Cedar Rapids.

Paige’s early interest and enthusiasm for cycling pretty much sum up why I am thrilled to be a part of PRC. It is not the training rides, the racing, the parties, the bikes, the uniforms that excite me. It is the idea of spreading like a bad case of the flu, the sport of cycling, in particular to women.

The sort of passion that Paige already clearly exhibits took years and years to cultivate within me. I was at a complete loss for female mentors, and for many years it was largely fear that kept me from jumping in to cycling on a broader scale/level. The idea that this could be completely averted or fast tracked and that….gasp, and then be very, very afraid…that I might even be seen as some sort of mentor for another cyclist is just plain exciting.

I wish that when I was thirteen, that my parents had recognized in my riding (and crashing) that there could be something that could grow from my passion, and if they had, I wish that there could have been a team of like-minded women yelling words of encouragement, and better yet, riding along beside me.

To Rick: You should be commended for recognizing and then encouraging your daughter in her passion. I am sure there were other things you wished to be doing in the midst of that snowstorm, but there you were, with a big ole smile.

To Paige: You go girl, ride on! And I promise you this…we WILL ride together at some point this season. If only I can catch you!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tell Me This....

Is there really any point in eating a salad when it looks like this? Or should I just order another lemon merangue tart and call it a day? And WHY do all my Blackberry pictures look like blurry shit? Oh, because there is some sort of cellophane on the back of my phone. Problem solved!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Happens When You Are Distracted Untangling Last Year's Christmas Lights...

Wishing I Was Here

It is cold and sunny and actually quite lovely for an Iowa day this time of year. That said, I really wish I were here instead with my fancy girl snowboard and about a foot of fresh powdery stuff.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet Caleigh Jayne

I had the niece and nephews over for a sleepover this weekend. I am pretty sure my sister won't let them come back. Mission accomplished!

Kidding. Kidding.

They were nothing short of perfect angels and one day I may just steal them all. Besides, this little cherub is quite a kitchen helper, she hacked up all the potatoes for my mashers in no time. Then she made brownies, cracked a few eggs for a different project, did the dishes, and Clorox handi-wiped my entire kitchen. Come to think of it, maybe I'll just go steal her now.

Cranksgiving...and the Bad Monkeys Represent

Bad Monkey's very own Riggs represented at Punk Rock Cycling's second annual Cranksgiving this weekend. He showed up with his Surly, a bottle of beer, and took home the golden crank (OVERALL WINNER!). His speedy efforts and lady luck earned him this fresh pair of Oakleys, a piece of paper good for a tattoo, and a few cold beers. We could not be more proud.

I am fairly certain that next year I'll leave the fancy bike at home and opt instead for a bike with at the very least, cross tires. It was a teensy bit sketchy riding in blinding snow on the Ruby, albeit fun. Keely and I did not wipe out once, despite giving it a pretty good whirl at the bottom of a very large hill, and I am fairly certain next year we will also add a category to the contest, "coolest shades purchased en route." Keely would have taken that hands down this year with her diamond studded frames she selected in approximately 2.5 seconds at some Walgreens on University. As she said, "It was a whole other ride after we went and got those shades!"

We also discovered some new and different treehugger type grocery stores hidden in the enclaves of Des Moines that I never knew existed, one of which allowed me to purchase my very first $6.50 jar of spaghetti sauce...yikes. And none of which seemed to have any salt. Weird.

It was sweet to see so many single speeders and out of towners at this event, given the inclement weather, and it was also fantastic to see the load of yummy food in the back of the Rassy truck as it made its way toward the food bank. Good times.

Bring on the Big Wheel Rally!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Ham Balls!

Here is partial listing of what my mother deemed to be this year's "nothing fancy and a lighter spread" Thanksgiving which we celebrated at my grandparents' yesterday afternoon and which left me all fetal for the better portion of the evening and early hours this morning:

  • ham balls (really, is ANY good midwestern meal complete without a ham ball?)
  • turkey (two kinds, juicy/in broth stuff and um, dry)
  • stuffing
  • garlic/onion mashed potatoes
  • gravy
  • cranberries (straight outta the can...mmmm)
  • cranberry, apple, raspberry, nut some kinda jello salad thing that was actually in cupcake holders (weird. but tastey.)
  • sweet potato casserole with lots of yummy brown sugary nutty goodness on top
  • green fluff (again, see comment above about ham balls)
  • plain jello (in a mold of some sort)
  • jello squares, or, "finger jello"
  • cheese
  • deer meat
  • deer meat with cheese embedded in said deer meat (fancy)
  • wine from various Iowa wineries...my aunt did the tour, we drank the results.
  • beer
  • deviled eggs
  • root beer
  • homemade rolls
  • homemade jelly
  • pecan pie
  • pumpkin pie
  • apple pie
  • brownies
  • pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting
  • peanut butter bars
  • green bean casserole

Oh, I am sure there are other items I am forgetting, but you get the idea. There were probably nine crock pots going all told. So many crock pots that a power strip was required.

It was midwestern food gluttony at it's finest. But in the end, I did not want this post to be merely a listing of food items, I wanted it to be about HAM BALLS. Because this a.m., when I told one of my non-Iowa based friends that I'd eaten the shit out of some ham balls yesterday, she doubled over in a fit of laughter and said this:

What in the fuck is a ham ball?
And how in the fuck does THAT work...I mean, how does one get the ham in the ball?

To which I replied:

Hell if I know....I am pretty sure I don't WANT to know either!

And then she promptly Googled and sent me this recipe, saying something like, "hmmm," which probably means she is very scared of the Ham Ball but cannot readily admit that yet being that she fancies herself for trying every culinary masterpiece at least once. And I am sure she was even more scared when I told her that the recipe looked way too fancy and much more elegant than the typical Iowa based ham ball recipe.

The telltale: I am fairly certain the sauce in the typical Iowa Ham Ball recipe nearly always contains grape jelly as one of its main ham ball sauce ingredients, sadly, not whiskey. And I would not at all be surprised to learn that the ham in Ham Balls is actually not ham at all, but perhaps something like oh, SPAM.

The ham balls I ate yesterday had somewhat of an orange tint. No shit. They also tasted mildly of grape suckers.

Ham balls seem to have been popping into the periphery of my existence for years now, and I find it hysterical that people from places other than the midwest have never even heard of them. When Brad and I were were living in Washington together and would travel back to Iowa for a visit with our respective families here, Brad's mom would go to great, great extremes to cook whatever she deemed as Brad's favorite meal for each visit.

This usually meant...ham balls and some jello salad, of course. Never mind that Brad hates ham balls and he also doesn't particularly care for jello salad either.

Nonetheless, Brad's mom thought he loved them both and would happily squeeze his cheeks like a four year old, and lament to everyone how she'd gone to great lengths to make Brad's favorite for his visit. And Brad and I would sit in the little loveseat in his parents' 85 degree living room laughing our asses off while we awaited our ham ball dinner.

Thankfully, one Ragbrai a few years back Brad began dragging his buddy Richard to Iowa for these visits, and Richard fell head over hells in LOVE with ham balls. In fact, Richard could probably be nominated president of Brad's mother's Ham Ball Fan Club. So now there are even more ham balls, Richard or not, and of course that tried and true story about how Richard he loooves those ham balls! I recall one visit when Richard stayed in Seattle, the suggestion that perhaps we should package some ham balls up and take them to Richard on our way through Seattle towards Bellingham.

And of course, if we are lucky during these meals, there is also green fluff, or some other flashy jello salad. Last time, if I recall, it was jello with snickers and apples and pretzels and broccoli or some other totally random vegetable that gave Brad great pause and made me kick him in the shins under the table to avoid my spitting my food across the room in a fit of laughter.

Yesterday Thank the Maker on this early Thanksgiving there were both ham balls AND green fluff! Ironically, (or perhaps not) Brad was safely in Washington, riding his bike up the side of some mountain and completely oblivious to it all, and I have no clue where his mother was; sadly she was also no part of this ham ball event.

I had a couple ham balls for Brad to mark the occassion anyways, and toasted him 2,000 some miles away with a big ole swig of Iowa wine from a very plastic cup. I am certain, whether he knew consciously or not, that he was very thankful at that very moment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When You Are Engulfed In Flames

BOOK: When You Are Engulfed In Flames
By David Sedaris

When I read David Sedaris' Barrel Fever in the late nineties, I had little idea that it was possible to read a book and actually double over in laughter. Given that I had been a sucker for crappy hopeless romances up to this point, I was hooked. I also make no bones about my self diagnosed attention deficit disorder, and the idea of reading fast, funny stories that were over in a matter of pages were not only a relatively new thing to me, they were pretty darned novel and suited to my personality. I subsequently ran out and tried to get my hands on everything else the guy had ever written in his life, which at that point was very little.

And then there was the lull. I have written in the past about paltry sophomore works from both writers and musicians; I frequently have little taste for the churn and burn work that seems in my expert opinion largely reguritated from freshman efforts--stuff that is meant to pacify the desires of money hungry publishers and labels. Such was the case here, until Me Talk Pretty One Day hit the shelves and I was once again, doubled over.

And now again, we have When You are Engulfed In Flames. How seamlessly an author can jump from the tragedy of living next door to man shunned from society because of his love of sex with little kids, to a house burning down at the hands of a mouse and make it simultaneously side splittingly funny, is well beyond me, but somehow Sedaris does it. I read the entire book in one sitting.

I really needed a laugh that night. And I recieved many, many of them, all for the hard copied price of $29.95. Not bad, if you don't count the wine.

Tis the Season...To Be Scrooge'd

My blog will return to its normal colors after the passing of the Holi-daze.

In the meantime, it is great to know that the gas station owners of the world have united in their love of Jesus during this time of unprecedented profits. He, for all practical purposes HAS to be on "their" side.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sitting on top of the world

Printed originally in the Chicago Tribune:

Sitting on top of the world

Garrison Keillor
November 12, 2008

Be happy, dear hearts, and allow yourselves a few more weeks of quiet exultation. It isn't gloating, it's satisfaction at a job well done. He was a superb candidate, serious, professorial but with a flashing grin and a buoyancy that comes from working out in the gym every morning. He spoke in a genuine voice, not senatorial at all. He relished campaigning. He accepted adulation gracefully. He brandished his sword against his opponents without mocking or belittling them. He was elegant, unaffected, utterly American, and now (Wow) suddenly America is cool. Chicago is cool. Chicago!!!

We threw the dice and we won the jackpot and elected a black guy with a Harvard degree, the middle name Hussein and a sense of humor—he said, "I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher." The French junior minister for human rights said, "On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes." When was the last time you heard someone from France say they wanted to be American and take a bite of something of ours? Ponder that for a moment.

The world expects us to elect pompous yahoos, and instead we have us a 47-year-old prince from the prairie who cheerfully ran the race, and when his opponents threw sand at him, he just smiled back. He'll be the first president in history to look really good making a jump shot. He loves his classy wife and his sweet little daughters. At the same time, he knows pop music, American lit and constitutional law. I just can't imagine anybody cooler.

It feels good to be cool, and all of us can share in that, even sour old right-wingers and embittered blottoheads. Next time you fly to Heathrow and hand your passport to the man with the badge, he's going to see " United States of America" and look up and grin. Even if you worship in the church of Fox, everyone you meet overseas is going to ask you about Obama, and you may as well say you voted for him because, my friends, he is your line of credit over there. No need anymore to try to look Canadian.

And the coolest thing about him is the fact that back in the early '90s, given a book contract after the hoo-ha about his becoming the First Black Editor of The Harvard Law Review, instead of writing the basic exploitation book he could've written, he put his head down and worked hard for a few years and wrote a good book, an honest one, which, since his rise in politics, has earned the Obamas enough to buy a nice house and put money in the bank. A successful American entrepreneur.

Our hero who galloped to victory has inherited a gigantic mess. The country is sunk in debt. The Treasury announced it must borrow $550 billion to get the government through the fourth quarter, more than the entire deficit for 2008, so he will have to raise taxes and not only on bankers and lumber barons. His promise never to raise the retirement age is not a good idea. Whatever he promised the Iowa farmers about subsidizing ethanol is best forgotten at this point. We may not be getting our National Health Service cards anytime soon. And so on and so on.

So enjoy the afterglow of the election awhile longer. We all walk taller this fall. People in Copenhagen and Stockholm are sending congratulatory e-mails—imagine! We are being admired by Danes and Swedes! And Chicago becomes The First City. Step aside, San Francisco. Shut up, New York. The Midwest is cool now. The mind reels. Have a good day.

Garrison Keillor is radio host and author.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Little Bit Of Riding...A Lot More Football and Baseball

Aside from this biking thing, around my house of late we've been primarily exicited about two things. Football and baseball. The football is of the kiddo flag variety (thankfully as it's another very sad year to be a Cyclone)...and the baseball is of the professional sort...Dodgers baseball. My child is pretty sure he's joined the ranks of the NFL what with his sore muscles, mouth guard and all. This stuff is great entertainment and for the first time ever, his season has been blessed with PERFECT weather:

My son found this great love affair of both football and baseball through birth into a family of sports fanatics, but also from watching a whole bunch of games of nearly every level/type. For his football season, we implemented a "good sportsmanship rule" prior to his second practice. It seemed to me a good expectation to set early as he jumped in the car complaining about something. And shortly thereafter as I observed another practice, we also implemented a "no showboating rule." Simply put...you showboat and you're out. And if you're not a good sport you're out.

Both of these rules fall nicely into our overall "Sports Deal." We have this Deal, my son and I, that has been longstanding (in the mind of my nine year old at least) through a number of his sports teams and seasons. I stole it from the parenting annals of one of my very dear friends after lamenting one night over a glass of wine how spun out of shape so many parents seemed to get, and how awful their behavior was on the sidelines and how it all seemed lost on them that then subsequently, their children acted the same way on the court/field. What are these people teaching their kids, I wondered aloud?

My friend promptly replied, "To act like idiots."

And then he explained to me The Deal.

He made The Deal with his dad and mom growing up, when he played baseball, first Little League, then eventually made his way to the major leagues. The Deal: you make a fool out of me on the field and I will make a fool out of you on the sidelines. I adopted it as my own that night.

When we discuss The Deal at home, my son explodes into a fit of the giggles imagining what I might do in any number of hypothetical situations he dreams up. We haven't used it yet. But I have sat at each of my son's games and watched kids showboat, bitch, complain and pout with great bravado; all while their parents sit in their lawn chairs and swoon over how cute they are.

It would be easy to brush this off as "this day and age" and blame it on the example cast by many of our professional athletes. Except we've found for my son a role model on this MLB Dodgers team that has just blown every one of those stereotypes to smithereens. At Cleveland game earlier this season Casey Blake gave my son the royal treatment: talked to him, threw him a ball, came to see him again after the game and EVEN REMEMBERED HIS NAME!

Hands down, he made my son's summer. And from that day on, my son has watched, and therefore I have watched Casey Blake's every move. We have scanned the papers and read line scores. We have logged on to ESPN.com. We have recited stats from his baseball card, quizzed one another.

My son was devastated with his mid season trade to the Dodgers after following Cleveland all summer. And then we read together an article where Casey Blake took the move to Los Angeles in stride; and Casey looked for and he pointed out the positives. My son was amazed.

"He likes it, mom! Did you see that? I was mad that I thought he'd be missing his friends and he said he LIKES it!"

And now as the Dodgers take center stage, and each game is televised we sit around and we watch Casey Blake even more closely.

"He doesn't showboat, does he mom?"

"He has great sportsmanship, doesn't he, mom?"

And perhaps my favorite moment of them all, last night Casey hit a solo homerun line shot that put the game back in L.A.'s court. The LA fans demanded a curtain call. The cameras were all on Casey. And it took two teammates nearly hurling the guy outside the dugout to get him to acquiesce.

And my son, "He looks almost embarrassed that they are making him do that, doesn't he mom?"
This a.m. as we drove to school, he sat in the back of the car lamenting their loss (that he was not allowed to stay up and watch). He said, "Do you think Casey's mom and dad had their OWN Deal, mom?"

I told him I am sure they did. And sometimes the good guys do win.

Lets hope so tonight.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Maples At Their Peak

These lovely maple leaves are a bit north of here but there are TONS of these trees near my house. This time of year is my very, very favorite around here and this weekend promises lots of lovely, sunny, warm weather for crunching around in them.

Hurray for Friday! Hurray for Fall! Hurray for my new window screens that were installed yesterday while I worked! There is nothing better than sleeping with the windows wide open this time of year. It is also a darned lovely day for a bike ride.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Lovely Grey Northwest Day...Followed By Some Very Welcome Fall Sun

Yesterday was cool and damp and grey. I have plenty of clothes for those days given that in Bellingham there were about 11 months of them. I found myself happy for the opportunity to pull out for the first time this Fall a warm hat, sweater and jacket. Happy for the grey skies that seemingly matched my morose mood. Happy for the opportunity to blame the dreary drizzle on an excuse for slacking off, slowing down.

Then as if to continue this Northwest-themed day, I later met great friends for some mediocre sushi, a little live music. It got me thinking even moreso about how much I actually miss Bellingham, my friends there, these mountains and this lovely little park I hid at on occassion called Whatcom Falls, which sits smack dab in the middle of Bellingham.

And as soon as the inevitable snow flies around here, I will surely miss Bellingham and the Northwest even more. Today though, a picturesque Iowa autumn sun returned; the sugar maples are brilliant shades of crimson red, the geese glide by in clear, sea-blue skies and I will ride my bike. I will ride my bike by pumpkin patches, yellow bean fields and combines harvesting corn. My son will play a little football. My dog will go for a run. And some friends will inevitably stop by my porch later. I will sleep soundly here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Kona Comes Out Of Hiding: We're Mountain Biking...or Something Like This.

My legs were killing me from Saturday's ride and the wind was even worse than the day before. I also had a little time I didn't expect due to a last minute sleepover invite. So yesterday I drug the Kona out to play. I have only ridden this bike only a handful of times since my return from Washington, mainly because the majority of the trails near my house were flooded and in horrible shape, and then I got distracted by my road bikes. This bike is also a bit um, much for these parts. Nonetheless, it's fun to ride, and the dog was giving me more and more looks like these as the day wore on:

We started here:

And straight out of the parking lot saw all these horses coming off the trail:

Marley was not deterred or to be bothered by some silly horses. She took off like she owned the place. Eventually, we made our way over to the East side:

Unfortunately, despite some lovely foliage, the trails were still quite a mess from the floods and horses, therefore there was TONS of sand, and horse shit and single track that is no longer single track and erosion....everywhere you can imagine.

We had ourselves a fine time though and returned home both of us plum tuckered out, covered in horse shit, mud and river water and disc brakes full of sand. And yes, I DID clean my bike afterwords. For once. And then my dog. And then me.

And finally, there was some much needed rest (and a very cold beer):

Rides Are Boring Albeit Lovely

The combines are out and harvest is in full swing around these parts; which when you're on a bike means more wind, some lovely colors changing dramatically each day...in particular in the bean fields, and all sorts of road kill and critters making their way from their former homes to some other locale. I am bored out of my mind riding solo, but I have managed to drag my camera along once or twice for good measure, and perhaps as a good excuse to take a break here and there.

Thursday's ride was short. I flatted just as I was leaving, and returned home to swap bikes, but still had very few minutes to spare before we were looking at momma being late for the football practice pick up.

Friday was also short, but I didn't flat. I did however space out and run over a frog, a snake, a possum tail and a part of some other unidentifiable animal. Spaced out is perhaps a mild understatment.

Saturday's ride was long, FAST and lovely for the first half and then a royal pain in the calves/quads as I went 20 some miles home straight into a ferocious headwind. Nonetheless, I stopped to take a pic of these native grasses; I am trying to figure out how I might integrate some into my landscaping at home, which right now, largely consists of these lovely mums.

Wallaby's 20th Anniversary Party & Alumni Reunion

The Vitals: Starts all day Friday , with food specials...beer garden F.A.C. or after work party!

Band starts at 8.

Saturday a.m. tailgate/game.Please share your pictures with Donny or Rick via Alison or Stacie.

T-shirt pre-orders contact Donny or Stacie.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's New...

I'll bet you didn't know you could race bikes and simultaneously carry babies? We wouldn't recommend trying it, unless of course, you're Keri. She's special AND she's gone pro!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Evil Bitch...Or PhD?

Would the real Evil Bitch please step forward? Rumor has it this one passed her boards (despite ditching her classmates and spending her most crucial study hours riding her bike) and is now a bona fide doctor of some sort. I ain't no mathematician, but last I checked this gives us two Monkey Doctors...and Brett Farve. Who you got?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

And then...

...there was this!

...and in slightly better news, this!

Hardin County Ordinance...WHOOPS...

This just in from the Bike Iowa listserv:

I just received a call from Jim Johnson of the Hardin County Board. The board will begin the process to repeal the ordinance on Tuesday. The form has been removed from their website. He said they did not have enough information when they passed the ordinance and they only intended protection against RAGBRAI.

He acknowledged it was a mistake and it was a bigger mistake to put 10 riders in the ordinance, but it was what was provided by ISAC. He appreciated that the Iowa Bicycle Coalition organized local members, bicycle shops, and the trails group in Hardin County to speak to the board and provide them with theinformation that they needed.

Crossing the Line...

Found this today on Story People and loved it so much I thought I'd post here:

I have too much to lose, she said, if I cross that line.

Like what? I said.

She could not think of anything that day so she said she'd get back to me.

Since then I've been thinking what I would lose if I cross my line & I haven't come up with anything either.

There's always another line somewhere.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hardin County Passes B.S. Biking Ordinance

See below minutes from a recent Hardin County Board of Supervisors meeting. If there was ever a load of poo to be read, I am fairly certain this is it:

Johnson moved, Miller seconded to adopt Ordinance No. 43, An Ordinance Relating toBicycle Events of County Roads.

Roll call vote: "Ayes" Johnson, Miller and Bear."Nays": None.

Ordinance No. 43 is hereby adopted as follows:

The Board of Supervisors of the County of Hardin ordains as follows:
1. County roads are not designed for bicycles. According to the National HighwayTraffic Administration, bicycling results in more emergency room admissions than anyother sport or activity. Large organized bicycle events that use County roads create aunique risk of injury to bicycle riders. Allowing such rides puts the County, and Countytaxpayers, at risk for lawsuits and large damage awards.

2. The County wants to encourage large organized bicycle events, while at the same timeprotecting the County from liability. The County has a legitimate interest in protectingitself from liability for injuries associated with the use of County roads. The best way todo that is to require that large organized bicycle events procure insurance that includesthe County as an additional insured.

3. Even with this ordinance in place, full opportunity will continue to exist on Countyroads and on other County property for the free flow of ideas, and the exercise offreedom of speech.

1. "County" means the County of Hardin, State of Iowa.

2. "Bicycle event" means an organized procession or assemblage of more than ten (10 )bicycle riders on one or more County roads in the unincorporated portion of theCounty, when one or more of the following conditions also applies:
a. The event is publicly advertised, which may include but is not limited toInternet, radio, newspaper, flier or email advertising; or
b. A registration fee or donation is charged or requested for participation inthe event.

3. "Person" means any person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company, ororganization of any kind.

4. "Board of Supervisors" means the Board of Supervisors of the County or itsdesignee.SECTION

3. INSURANCE REQUIRED No person shall organize, operate, or participate in, any bicycle event in the Countyunless the event has liability insurance coverage as provided in this ordinance.

1. Form. The Board of Supervisors shall provide a proof of insurance form. Anauthorized representative of the bicycle event shall file a completed proof of insuranceform with the Board of Supervisors as set forth below.

2. Filing Deadline. A completed proof of insurance form for a bicycle event shall be filedwith the Board of Supervisors no less than three (3) days before the date on which itis proposed to conduct the bicycle event.

3. Content. The proof of insurance form shall set forth the following information:
a. The name, address and telephone number of the person or personsseeking to conduct such bicycle event;
b. If the bicycle event is proposed to be conducted by, or on behalf of, anorganization, the address and telephone number of the organization, and ofthe authorized agents of such organization;
c. The date and time when the bicycle event is to be conducted;
d. The route to be traveled;e. The approximate number of bicycles riders that will participate in the bicycleevent.

4. Certificate of Insurance. Attached to completed proof of insurance form, theauthorized representative of the bicycle event shall provide to the Board ofSupervisors a certificate of insurance showing that the representative has obtainedcomprehensive general liability insurance in the minimum amount of one milliondollars ($1,000,000) to cover property damage and/or injuries, including death, toany persons in connection with the activities conducted in accordance with thebicycle event. The certificate shall include an additional insured endorsementpage that names the County, and its officers, employees, agents, andrepresentatives as additional insureds.

5. Fee. No bicycle event permit fee or filing fee shall be charged by the Board ofSupervisors.

6. Deficiencies. The Board of Supervisors shall advise the authorized representativeof the bicycle event in writing of any deficiencies in the completed proof ofinsurance form within 24 hours of the filing of the form with the Board ofSupervisors.

If bicycle event participants are required to sign a waiver of liability, the waiver shallinclude language waiving any claim against the County and its officers, employees,agents, and representatives.

The violation of any provision of this ordinance is a county infraction which shall be punishable by a civil penalty of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00). If theinfraction is a repeat offense, it shall be punishable by a civil penalty of onethousand dollars ($1,000) for each repeat offense. A separate offense shall be deemed to have been committed for each day or portion of a day that a violationcontinues.

If any of the provisions of this ordinance are for any reason illegal or void,then the lawful provisions of this document, which are separable from theunlawful provision shall be and remain in full force and effect, the same as ifthe ordinance contained no illegal or void provisions.

This ordinance shall be in effect upon its final passage, approval andpublication as provided by law.

Adopted and passed by the Hardin County Board of Supervisors on this 9th dayof July, 2008./s/Ed BearEd Bear, ChairmanHardin County Board of Supervisors/s/Erv MillerErv Miller, MemberHardin County Board of Supervisors/s/Jim JohnsonJim Johnson, MemberHardin County Board of Supervisors

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Baseball and Cycling: Similar--You Decide.

I have been a fan of Frank DeFord's since I first discovered NPR. His diction lends itself well to his commentaries but even without the audio piece, I find myself compelled by each of his weekly pieces.

I have referenced this article to many of my friends, and just found it in his archives. You can many of his previous works here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ragbrai Blurbs: To Be Continued...The Amazing Race

Ragbrai Blurbs: For Keri...Scooty Stays Puff't

Take note of this guy: charming, cute, and yet typically posed with a deep scowl and flipping the camera the bird. He is perhaps only smiling in this picture because he is wearing his brand spanking new Bad Monkey rain coat, which none of the rest of us ordered. He lives for these moments.

It rained all morning. It is now afternoon and things are starting to get silly.

Now, come with me for a minute:
Your ass hurts.
The chafe is really setting in.
You've knocked off 50 some miles of your day.
First 18 are sketchy as all get out.
You nearly sag.
This guy totally and fully GUILTS you into riding.
The road is shitty, full of holes your top tube might fit nicely in and could eat a tire whole.
There's rain.
Lots of rain.
A headwind.
Then...cross winds that make staying upright a chore.
Finally, there are a couple beers.
And then you are too soon perhaps, back in the line pedaling, this is guy pulling, you are a row behind.

You watch his calves awhile.
You watch the other guys' calves awhile.
You watch their wheels.
You try and duck behind that headwind.
You make a smartass comment.
Your girlfriend makes another.
You look up...and simultaneously you and said girlfriend notice that this jacket...this guy...the headwind has turned him into this Stay Puffed guy.

You laugh like you have not laughed in years; tears rolling down your cheeks, bike weaving and handlebars nearly tangling. You cannot breathe, you cannot possibly pedal, you totally screw up the line.

Yeah. Had to be there.

Ragbrai Blurbs: Brett Favre Is One Bad Monkey

You probably noticed that Brett Favre didn't turn on his proverbial PR machine and start causing a Green Bay a ruckus until after the conclusion of Ragbrai 2008. That is because he was riding with Team Bad Monkey, posing for pictures with various ladies throughout the ride, buying us groceries, punching people in the gut, and signing autographs. We don't claim any kind of responsibility for his shenanigans on...or off the ride, but we did want to make it clear that Lance ain't all that--we've got Brett. Steer clear of us.